This last month I took on a challenge – one that most mortal humans these days would fear to try. Take six teenagers to a Taylor Swift concert? No, I’m not that crazy. Go to Wal-Mart on a Thursday night to buy shampoo? I’d prefer greasy hair. Take a date to watch 50 Shades of Grey? No. Obviously I went alone. These things all fail in comparison to the monumental task I achieved the month of February.
I went an entire month without a cell phone. Let me repeat that. From Jan. 24-Feb. 27 I went without a cell phone, and guess what, I lived! This wasn’t some sociological test I decided to endure, but simply a phone lost – reported stolen – and then an issue with my provider when I found my stolen phone. Let’s just say when you pay for Metro service, you get Metro care. It was nearly the fifth day without having my phone that the “phone pangs” began. It was as if I could hear my text notifications alerting me – only to reach for nothing. “My god what have I become?” I thought. Had I become one of the current generation’s “face down in the phone screen” roaming zombies? You see them everywhere, unable to lift their heads up for more than a second, as they poke and scroll their way through life. I was positive that I hadn’t become one, but now realize I was in complete denial.
It was a few months back, while gathered around a table for a good old fashioned holiday BS session, that I first sensed the problem the cell phone was creating. My nephew Nico was now old enough to sit near the big boy table and listen in on tales of the past. With world-class storytellers John Riella and Wes Harris as my uncles, time at this table is like listening to an audio book written by the tandem of Ernest Hemingway and Mel Brooks.
We were mid-session when it reached a point in a story that my nephew leaned over to me and asked, “Why didn’t they just call somebody?” (I don’t remember the specifics, but the story being told was taking place in the mid-70s.) I explained that there were no cell phones. Kids these days give you a curious look when you describe pre-cell phone days. They look at you as if you are describing a time when people wore animal hides and dinosaurs roamed. It happened again during a later story. It was then I realized that this new generation will never have true adventures.
Gone are the great adventure stories, ones that happen without the safety net a cell phone provides. No quick call home to check in. No looking on MapQuest to see if you’re headed in the right direction. No peeking at Facebook to see where everybody is at. Back then it was just you and a friend or two, relying on the luck of the day and what you were willing to get yourself into. How can this generation ever reach the part in the story where the day-drive up to Little Sweden turns into the two-day “Lost” adventure to Kennedy Meadows and Reno? You know the one. The one with the secret thing you did that has never left that circle of adventurers to this day; that moment when you made history amongst you and your clan of friends. Sadly, those moments have gone the way of the Dodo with the cell phone being the stymieing factor.
My last great adventure coincides with the cell phone boom – or lack of it, to be clear. It was a five-day road trip to a wedding in Oregon in 1997. This is the last time I remember being on a group trip without the cell phone safety net. That trip changed lives within my group of friends, many from fear that we were getting a bit too emboldened by the chances we’d become accustomed to.
The details are a bit fuzzy, but involve a wine tasting followed by the sudden urge to visit The Enchanted Forest Amusement Park in Turner, Ore. It was at the suggestion of the wine steward that we visit the park. I think he was just trying to keep us from driving. Either way, we thanked him for the suggestion. We had been the only four on a rainy Thursday morning to stop by the winery, and three hours later, we were still the only ones.
The Enchanted Forest was located about a half-mile from the winery. The driving rainstorm had the park completely empty, except of course for the four Merlot-saturated idiots desiring entrance. They granted us entrance and the gloves came off. NO LINES! It was like the end of National Lampoons Vacation, sans the hostages. We had split into two groups when it happened. While crawling through an Alice in Wonderlandish type tunnel, I tore my pants. I tore my pants from belt loop to belt loop, right down Crotch Avenue. I headed to the car with the keys for replacement pants, but with no intention of returning to the park. New pants on, I walked back to the winery. It wasn’t but 40 minutes later that one of the Musketeers walked into the winery. Let’s be clear here. He was not on a reconnaissance mission to locate me. He had simply snuck away from the park to tend to his wine needs as well. Guess what? We didn’t have cell phones to immediately call the others to alert them. We simply went on with our day. It was a mere hour later that the third member straggled in.
“I knew the second we entered that place you’d both be here within an hour.” He was spot on as usual and made the half-mile walk in the rain, not needing a cell to make sure we’d be bellied up to the bar. Instincts, people. We waited for nearly two hours before the fourth Boozeketeer showed up. “Hey a-holes, I stood by my car for over an hour in the rain waiting for you before walking here!” There was a pause, and as quickly as I could ask why he didn’t drive, “Teicheira, you have the keys dummy!” So I did. That was just Day 1 of this adventure, and the details of the next four days have been sealed in a mayonnaise jar and tossed into a manure pond. I realize I just took us on a long walk for a small payoff of a story, but within that group of friends, it is a cherished memory. One that would never had happened were the cell phone in existence.
The cell phone is so ingrained into our system these days. It is as if it is an extension of our hand – and that hand is buried into our face. There are times I’m certain I could walk completely naked through the mall and only three people would even notice, and those three would take a picture and post it on their Instagram. It is a definite love-hate relationship most of us have with our phones. Be honest with yourself. How many of us become a bit incredulous when the phone rings at an inopportune time? “How dare this person call me?! Don’t they know I’m watching Wheel of Fortune right now?!” All the while, your phone is sitting on your lap! For me personally, the “phone” aspect of the cell phone is my least favorite. I love being able to scroll around the Internet and play poker while driving a tractor, but the phone aspect carries an annoyance factor of plus-10.
Oh how I hate hearing “I called you like 3 times the other day … and you didn’t answer?” Is there an actual question there, one that I am honestly required to respond to? “Yup, I didn’t” is my standard response. People need to realize that the technology of the cell phone doesn’t supersede my right to not answer it. Maybe I was away from the phone. Maybe I was deep in thought and didn’t want to be bothered. Maybe I was arranging my DVD collection in alphabetical order and was in the middle of deciding if the “The” movies belong in the “Ts” or not. Either way, I sure miss the days of being able to disappear from the grid of life without someone thinking that the fact I own a cell phone gives them the right to infringe on my downtime.
P.S. Feel free to leave a message because like 75 percent of the human race, I never listen to them. That’s what texts are for stupid.
I wish I was able to end this with a fantastic morality tale. How after a month without a phone, I came to the conclusion I no longer needed one. Hardly. Me and my new phone are going through the early stages of courtship, learning her sounds and what keys I need to press to please her. We were on a country drive a few days ago when Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home” came on the radio. Is there a better country driving song? I was having one of those peaceful moments – perfect sunset and dog in my Jeep – when my phone started buzzing in my pocket. Trip ruined, I grabbed the phone to see that Metro had sent me a message thanking me for purchasing my new phone and that upgrades in my package were available. Just as I went to chuck it out the window, I noticed the time was 7:18 – and I had exactly 12 minutes to make it home for the start of Wheel of Fortune.
Thank you, cell phone.
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”